Top Tips to Recycle Right in the New Year

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A young boy and girl recycling flattened cardboard.

Are you still looking for a New Year’s resolution? How about an earth-friendly goal such as recycling right? Recycling reduces waste, keeps recyclable materials out of the landfill and helps protect the environment. Recycling also saves energy and valuable natural resources and even creates jobs. 

How can you make recycling right a permanent habit? While changing your recycling behaviors may not become automatic overnight, keeping these eight tips in mind will help you recycle right in the New Year. 

1. When in doubt, find out at 

Do you ever find yourself wondering things like: Can I recycle this milk carton? What about this pile of junk mail? Simply check for answers. We’ve made it easier than ever for San José residents to find out what goes where. 

2. Empty and scrape food and liquids: 

Recycling markets require high-quality, clean materials. To make sure your recyclables meet standards, empty and scrape out food and liquids. Items don’t have to be dishwasher spotless to be recycled. Just grab a utensil and empty and scrape out food or liquids before recycling. 

3. Food-soiled containers belong in the garbage: 

Store-bought food and takeout often come in recyclable packaging, but sometimes they can become too soiled to be recycled. Items made of paper and cardboard, such as pizza boxes, can’t be recycled once soiled with grease or food and belong in the garbage. Durable plastic items like takeout containers should be emptied, scraped, and recycled. If you don’t have time to empty and scrape soiled items, place them in the garbage. 

4. No plastic bags, wraps, films: 

Plastics bags, wraps, and films of any size, shape, or color are not accepted for residential recycling in San José. These items tangle and clog the machinery used to process recyclables, creating operational and safety hazards for workers. If you want to recycle these materials, you can recycle clean plastic bags by bringing them to a drop-off location. Otherwise, try to reuse them or place them in the garbage. 

5. Empty and flatten cardboard boxes: 

When cardboard boxes are not flattened before recycling, carts, and bins overfill quickly. Before recycling a flattened box, it’s also important to remove, separate, and properly sort other packaging. Plastic bags, air pillows, and Styrofoam are not allowed in recycling carts and bins. 

6. Put an end to “wishcycling”: 

If you don’t know where an item goes, don’t have time to look it up, or can’t find it on, place it in the garbage. Do not “wishcycle” and put something in the recycling because you think it should be recycled or hope that it will get recycled 

7. Dispose of household hazardous waste correctly: 

It is important to dispose of HHW correctly. Certain types of HHW, such as batteries and chemicals, can cause physical injury to workers, cause fires, and damage trucks and equipment. Dispose of HHW properly by scheduling a free drop-off appointment at    

8. Subscribe to The Loop: 

Stay informed with The Loop, our semi-monthly newsletter. Each issue features updates and tips on recycling and garbage collection, waste reduction, and more. Visit to subscribe.  

Now that you’ve reviewed our eight tips to recycle right in the New Year, maximize your impact by sharing these tips with friends or family. Feel overwhelmed with these tips? Try implementing one at a time, or focus on just a few to start with.

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